Saturday, June 28, 2008

Diana Braves the Swamp

Wednesday I went with one of my village friends out to get saksak.  And it was quite the adventure.  I could call it the Hike-Scrub-Carry triathlon.  The first half hour of the hike section, we were surrounded by huge towering trees above our heads, peaceful shade underneath without thick underbrush.  It was gorgeous.  I was a little unsteady on the logs we were crossing… the higher they were, the more unsteady I felt.  Then we got to the swamp.  At one point, I missed the log (to my credit, it was about 3” in diameter) and sank down to my knee in “soup” as the Nakui’s call it.  J  I felt like I could easily leave my shoe there forever if I wasn’t careful.  So I did the slow pull against incredible suction, and eventually I was free!   After snaking around in mucky water for another half an hour, we arrived at our destination -- a downed sago tree with half its middle already chopped out.  Linai pointed to some brackish water and told me to wash the mud off (were those my legs under all that?!).  It was about then that I started noticing the amount of mosquitoes around.  I think I could have literally lost every pint of blood I had to them by the end of the day!  I’ve never been so thankful for bug repellant in my LIFE!!!  Even with multiple layers of it slathered on me, they still swarmed around, trying to land, but not liking the taste.  I shared my bug repellant, realizing these ladies came here several times a week without any.


Soon, my turn to “scrub” came.  Linai had split open the bark on an 8’ section of the trunk.  I was handed the V shaped stick they use to chop the pith out of the sago palm.  I was determined to try to keep up with Linai, if not in prowess, at least in stamina.  J  Watching her, I tried to copy her style.  Her swings were even, coming down in a fine shave from top to bottom, her pith was fine, and she worked quickly.  My swings were haphazard, my lines were choppy, my pith was chunky and my work was slow.  I felt like a little child working next to a master.  It was fun.  J  But it was so tiring.  My hands started blistering.  My back started aching.  The mosquitoes kept attacking and then horseflies kept biting.  All the while, she just rhythmically worked away like a sago scrubbing machine.  About 11am, Linai, with a piece of sago pith hanging from her mouth, asked me if I’d eaten yet today.  It was then I learned she hadn’t eaten since the day before.  And on that day, all she’d eaten was saksak… the pudding they make from the starch rinsed out of the sago pith.  No greens to go with it, no fish or meat.  I couldn’t figure out what source of energy she was consuming to do all this work!  By about 1pm, I was cooked.  My back was aching, my hands were completely blistered and I had to tell Linai I was done.  I’d scrubbed about ¼ of our 8 foot section and Linai was making quick work of the other ¾ of it.  I put down my little stick with an intense feeling of relief that I didn’t have to do this every day.  I thought the hard work was done for the day. J


Around 1:30, we started packing up.  They drained the water out of the rinsing troughs and peeled the starch from the bottom, packaging it in leaves and vines for transport.  That’s when I realized we had to get all this stuff HOME!  Each of those ladies carried at least 70 pounds of starch, axes, bush knives, bark baskets, tools, etc on their backs.  And not in a nice, easy to carry backpack with extra padding on the straps, but instead tied together with a vine and slung over their heads.  I did what I could to help, carrying bilums, tools, whatever… thinking back to the long hike, the unsteadiness… wondering if I could manage the logs with a load on my back and no free hands.  The hardest work of all was just beginning!  We took a small detour up a mountain and Linai got some more betel nut to stave off the hunger.  Then we turned toward home.  It was a long hike and the ladies were puffing under their heavy burdens.  Rosama, a girl of 12, all of 40 pounds and 4 ½ feet tall, had worked all day alongside these two grown ladies and was carrying at least 50 lbs herself.  Never a complaint, always helpful.  Every time the trail got tough, she was telling ME, “Sorry”,  “Sorry”.  Along the way, they stopped to rest briefly (usually just enough time for me to catch up J) and we were immediately swarmed by mosquitoes or horseflies.  What a relief to finally start recognizing gardens near our village.  I had survived!  All I wanted was a huge glass of water.  And then another.  And then another.  My whole body ached and still aches today.  It sure gave me a greater appreciation for their version of the daily grind!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Report from Nakui

Greetings from Nakui village!  If you are reading this, that means the HF airwaves have successfully carried this posting to you.  After email problems for our first five days and now horrible atmospherics, we are again reminded this is not a given!  Yes, after a week of moving out of Lapilo and another crazy couple of days in Wewak getting organized, we arrived in Nakui last Friday.  We were soon reminded that life in Nakui is no less crazy!  Although the challenge of getting our house livable and all systems up and running was a major effort, we seem to have won the battle at least for the time being.  Besides getting unpacked and organized, we have built a new front door, fixed a leaky roof, fought off lots of termites and plumbed in a new water pipe to the Greenlaws house.  Having Josh in here has been a big help.  I'll have no problem keeping him busy for four more days until he leaves.  The Nakui village these days is consumed with politics and money making schemes and is now an important destination for outsiders with motivations of all sorts.  Our first night one particular group deemed untrustworthy was "escorted" out of the village after dark.  The Nakui church is going through a bit of a rough time.  Yes, they are meeting and opening up God's Word together, but a number of unresolved conflicts are hindering them.  One in particular involving Tuti and his wife Abelo has caused Tuti to withdraw from the church body altogether.  Diana and I both spent time trying to encourage them yesterday, and will continue to try and help see this situation resolved.  The good news is there are a number of people wanting to be baptized, and we are making plans to hold a baptism class and then baptize these ones within the next couple of weeks.  That will be a lot of fun.  Whenever possible, I am also trying to steal away time in my office to work on translation.  I would really like to have Galatians ready for Greg to teach from later this year.  Health-wise we are all doing pretty well ... Bri is nursing a nasty sore on her foot but otherwise we’re surviving fine.  All for now … thank for your prayers.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Heading into Nakui

On Friday (June 13th) we will be flying into Nakui, where we will have no internet and limited communication for 2 1/2 weeks. We will be periodically posting to our blog using HF email modem. Let's hope the radio waves are working! In the meantime we are flat-out sorting, storing and packing as we move out of the dorm and get ready for our flight to Wewak in two days. It's all too familiar ... since 2003 we've had to dump all our stuff into storage bins and move every year. This next year in San Diego will be our 6th home in 6 years! And then when we come back again in 2009 it will be #7. ~Sigh~ ... missionary life!